Gov't: Comms database may not deter serious crime

Gov't: Comms database may not deter serious crime

Summary: The government has admitted that the proposed £68m communications database will be of limited use in tackling organised criminals who may be too 'savvy'

TOPICS: Security

Powers to monitor the UK's email and internet records will be of limited use in tackling serious crime, the government has admitted.

Home Office proposals for phone, email and internet records — including VoIP — to be kept for 12 months are expected to cost taxpayers up to £68m to set up and £39m per year to run.

Consultation papers released this week show the government wants to keep the "who", "when" and "where" of communication to "assist in the investigation, detection and prosecution of serious crime".

But a spokeswoman for the Home Office admitted the proposals would be of restricted use against organised criminals or terrorist organisations, as they were likely to disguise their communications.

Hiding internet or email traffic is relatively simple using methods such as logging on using unregistered 3G dongles, using third-party wi-fi networks and by sending email using a secure tunnel and proxy.

The spokeswoman suggested the information may be of more use against ordinary citizens and minor criminals.

She said: "The serious criminals may be far more savvy than your normal Joe Blow and the information we collect [for them] is not going to be of the same calibre."

But she said the measures would be worth it if they were to provide evidence that helped convict even one person suspected of a "serious crime". blogs


Torvalds abandons KDE for Gnome

Ticked off at the latest revamp of KDE, Linux progenitor Linus Torvalds has switched to Gnome...

Read more

The legislation would mean hundreds of public bodies licensed under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act — including local councils, health authorities and government agencies — will have access to the communication information.

As of last September telecoms providers must keep all text and phone-call records between six months and two years under an EU directive, and this is to be rolled out to include all online traffic by 2009 at the latest. This legislation would bring the UK in line with this requirement.

The Internet Services Providers Association said it welcomed proposals to reimburse ISPs for the cost of retaining data but was reserving comment ahead of its response to the consultation on the legislation, due to end in October.

Information commissioner Richard Thomas recently spoke out against plans to retain communications records in a centralised database.

Topic: Security


Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Getting tired of this

    [[But she said the measures would be worth it if they were to provide evidence that helped convict even one person suspected of a "serious crime".]]

    What are we going to let them justify with this kind of trite emotional blackmail next!

    "We will systematically slaughter everyone with a beard in the UK. We know that the switched on terrorists will have a quick shave, but if it stops even one plying their deadly trade it will be worth it."

    Too much?

    Where's the line then?
    Andrew Meredith
  • Agreed with Andrew

    I agree whole-heartedly with Andrew's comment. As an American living in Europe, I have been deeply distressed over the past seven years at the things that have been done in my home country in the name of "security", and I don't want to see that spread. If one is to allow officials to do anything and everything they want with only the flimsy excuse of "if it stops even one person...", then we have truly lost our free society.
  • indeed..

    negative elements of these
  • How do they sleep at night

    Are they are all so inept that they actually believe this twaddle?
    I blame it all on Yes Minister which gave politicians the bright idea that they could actually run the country. It was a comedy program for ** sake, which probably explains why our once great nation is now a joke around the world.

    As for the if it stops one person rubbish ...